The 8th European Congress of Virology (ECV) is the largest virology congress in Europe, attended by European scientists working in various fields of virology. The congress is held every 3 years; the previous one in 2019 was held in Rotterdam and 2016 in Hamburg. This year, the congress was held in Poland for the first time. This is, of course, a great honour for Gdańsk.
The European Society of Virology had entrusted prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk of the Inter-University Faculty of Biotechnology UG - MUG to chair and organise the congress in 2022, but due to the pandemic still ongoing at the time, the date was postponed to 2023. The congress was co-hosted by prof. Thomas Mettenleiter, president of the Friedrich Loeffler Research Institute (FLI) network in Germany and a WHO expert.
The congress took place at the Baltic Philharmonic Hall on May 4-7, 2023. Complete information about the congress is presented on the website: https://www.eusv-congress.eu
This was the first such broad meeting of European virologists after the pandemic period. Many eminent scientists participated in the congress, including prof. Ralf Baltenschlager (Univ. of Heidelberg), prof. Marion Koopmans (Erasmus Univ. of Rotterdam), prof. Albert Osterhaus (Hannover), prof. Chiara Zurzolo (Pasteur University, Paris), prof. Volker Thiel (University of Bern).
Marshal Mieczysław Struk
The congress started on May 4; the guests were welcomed by the Marshal of the Pomorskie Voivodeship, Mieczysław Struk. The first session of the day, chaired by prof. Bieńkowska-Szewczyk and prof. Wolfgang Preiser from Cape Town (South Africa) summarised the experience of virologists' work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over the next three days, lectures and presentations were held simultaneously in four halls at the Baltic Philharmonic, attended by 650 scientists from European countries and Japan, the USA, Taiwan and Australia, among others. More than 70 lectures were given on various viruses and issues in viral molecular biology, epidemiology, virological technology and immunology. Many lectures covered the latest data on the SARS-CoV2 virus, Covid 19 and vaccines. Scientists working at BioNtech and CureVac reported on the work on mRNA vaccines made to combat the SARS-CoV2 virus and further projects directed towards the development of new antiviral vaccines.
Prof. Laura Folgori from Italy discussed the history of the creation and prospects for developing vector vaccines based on adenoviruses, among others. Of great interest was the symposium on the history and recent developments in virology (125 Years of Virology), where lectures were given by prof. Thomas Mettenleiter and prof. Albert Osterhaus.
Many specialised topics, such as the neurological consequences of viral infections, the latest viral imaging techniques, viral evolution, and viral vector therapies, among others, were the subject of separate sessions. Some lectures were devoted to the newest research on influenza and other respiratory pathogens. Several presentations were given by Polish scientists from Gdańsk, Cracow and Warsaw. Among the more than 400 posters presenting the results of virologists' work, several were also from Poland. Several of their authors were awarded prizes funded by, among others, the Marshall of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the Rector of the University of Gdańsk. Young scientists from the Gdansk virology research groups also supported the organisation of the congress as volunteers - their orange scarves with the congress logo were visible in all halls.
In addition to scientists, the congress was also attended by many biotechnology companies presenting their achievements and products. Some companies - Moderna and Thermo Scientific - organised their own short symposia. AA Biotechnology and NanoExpo represented Gdańsk-based companies.
The congress programme also included a special evening on the 34th floor of the Olivia Star skyscraper, from where participants admired the view of the sea, Oliwa and the University of Gdańsk campus.
Fredrich Loeffrel Institute Medal
The participants highly appreciated the scientific programme of the congress, its location in the Baltic Philharmonic Hall and the overall organisation. Members of the Council of the European Virological Society considered the congress in Gdańsk to be the most exciting and best-organised congress in the 20-year history of these congresses. As a token of appreciation, prof. Krystyna Bieńkowska-Szewczyk received a commemorative medal from the Fredrich Loeffrel Institute.
Virology is a scientific field that has been the focus of the eyes of the whole world in recent years and is at the centre of interest of many pharmaceutical companies. The Gdańsk virology research centre is well known internationally, as evidenced by the choice of our city as the venue for the prestigious conference. During the pandemic, Gdańsk virologists undertook numerous activities of a practical nature (organisation of diagnostics and genetic studies of the SARS-CoV2 virus) as well as of an informative nature. On the premises of the Intercollegiate Faculty of Biotechnology, Poland's most modern virology laboratory with a high degree of biosafety, was established. The further development of virology in Poland depends to a large extent on the intensive development of international cooperation, to which the tremendous success of the European Congress of Virology in Gdańsk will undoubtedly contribute.